Sent to Britain 20 years after an entire Roman legion - and its Eagle standard - disappeared under his father's command, battle-scarred centurion Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) sets out to reclaim the Eagle and restore his family honour. With a bitter but loyal British slave (Jamie Bell) as his only companion, Aquila enters the untamed North on a quest that will test both physical and mental fortitude. Meaty adventure, based on Rosemary Sutcliff's enduring boys-own classic The Eagle Of The Ninth.
Half-Gladiator, half-Apocalypto, but only about half as rousing as either, Kevin 'The Last King Of Scotland' Macdonald's 2nd century epic still packs enough muck and muscle to keep most schoolboys happy of a wet Saturday afternoon.
Following the sci-fi shenanigans of G.I. Joe, Channing Tatum comes in search of more serious heroics as Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young garrison commander who arrives in the South of England bearing the legacy of his father, whose 5,000-strong legion marched into the North - and vanished like Scotch mist.
He restores some family pride by successfully holding the fort against revolting Brits, but sustains what the pundits would describe as a career-threatening injury.
While recuperating at the home of his uncle (Donald Sutherland, taking matters somewhat more lightly than anyone else), Marcus sees to it that a defiant Briton, Esca (Bell), is spared from death in the local arena before taking him on as a slave.
However, despite an honourable discharge, Marcus can only rest once he recovers the lost legion's emblematic Eagle. But since the mission means venturing beyond Hadrian's Wall - the official end of the Roman world - Marcus must go it alone, with only Billius Ellius to act as his guide.
And so it's off to no-Roman's land they go, where the roles of master and servant gradually blur as Marcus is forced to put his trust in Esca's native know-how.
Amidst the dank and dingy glens, they encounter a dispossessed Roman soldier (Mark Strong) who reveals the legion's fate... which connects them more than they imagined.
Then they run into the war-like Seal Prince (A Prophet's Tahir Rahim), whose Pict-itious tribe appears to be born of an unholy union between the Mohicans and the Blue Man Group performance art troupe.
Presenting Scotland in all its sodden glory and piling on as much gore as a 12-certificate will allow, The Eagle might be most comfortably viewed in galoshes.
Unfortunately, bogged down is how the film sometimes feels, Macdonald dragging his feet between between the savagery and swordplay with needless, soft-focus flashbacks nicked from Gladiator and rather too much bedraggled traipsing through field and glen.
It's best approached like a buddy movie with gold standards. Because, by Jupiter, it's the rapport between Tatum and Bell that lifts The Eagle beyond any derring-do.
With neither trying to steal the limelight, there's a splendid wariness to their exchanges, whether they're weighing up each other's loyalties or sharing a meal of raw rat.
Friends... lend them your ears.